Why a memorial for Veda-loving Vivekananda in a Gond sacred place?

Gonds form India’s oldest society and have their own culture and religion. Today, there is an attempt to Hinduize this society and impose Hindu religion on it, as seen in the plan to construct the Vivekananda Memorial in Darekasa, the heart of Gond Culture. Ushakiran Atram explains

Yet another attempt to Hinduize Gond culture

Attempts are being made to impose Hindu religion and tradition on Gond culture. Now, so-called intellectual Devashish Roy has claimed that Vivekananda experienced Bhava Samadhi (trance) for the first time in a village called Darekasa, in Gondia district, Maharashtra, in 1877. The truth is that a place by the name of Darekasa did not exist in 1877.

The descendants of the Koya clan have been living in the Satpura Saletekri[1] range for thousands of years. Revered Koyaturs[2], Guru Lingo[3] and Mahayogi Hirasuka, the musician, lived in this land. Therefore, the indigenous peoples (Mulnivasis) from all over the country visit this place to pay homage. The Koyaturs have inhabited this ancient land of Gondwana. They owned this land. They ruled this region. Therefore, to say that this is where Vivekananda observed his first Bhava Samadhi and to plan to construct a memorial here is a deliberate attempt to intrude into Gond society and culture.

 

Devashish Roy’s claim that Vivekananda visited Darekasa and experienced his first trance there in 1877 is laughable. Then, this place was thickly forested and home to innumerable predatory animals. Amid the high hills, rivers and infinite streams, there were no paths or bridges. Because of the high hills, even forest dwellers did not venture out of the forest. It was only after facing a lot of hardships and after crossing many obstacles that the outsiders could enter this region. Only the Gonds inhabiting these hills could find their way through them and meet each other. That is why this wilderness was described in Gondi language as “chideecheep kamenkaan aalot”, which meansa peace-inducing place without human beings”.

Darekasa railway station

The place that is called Darekasa today was earlier known as Jammokudo. This is associated with ancient Kachargarh[4]. Jango Maa ran a children’s ashram in Jammokudo.

Even the history of modern India has it that the project to construct a railway line from Nagpur to Rajnandgaon was approved in 1888. The railway began operating in this area for the first time in 1920. Hills were blasted to construct railway tunnels. In Gond language, tunnels are called Darra-Darro. This is why local people employed as labourers named the place where they were building these tunnels as Darra. Those labourers who made huts to live here came to be known as Darekasa or “those who reside in Darro”. The place came to be known as “Tola of Darra” or “village of Darra”. The village of Darekasa came into being only after these names had been coined in the Gondi language. According to Devashish Roy, Vivekananda visited this village and experienced his first trance in 1877. Surprisingly, this event has suddenly come to light 141 years later.

A board put up by the Adani group that claims that Vivekananda came to Darekasa on a bullock cart at a time when it was completely inaccessible

By making this false claim, Devashish Roy has created misunderstanding in society. He should disclose the historical source, if any, based on which he is making this claim.

The second issue relates to Hazara Falls[5], which is situated close to the Darekasa tunnel. At the time period mentioned by Devashish Roy, the waterfalls did not have this name. This place is known as Kuvvadhaas in Gondi language. A British engineer who came to supervise the construction of tunnel lost his life in the waterfalls. Does the British engineer mention Darekasa in his documents? Devashish Roy should tell us how the engineer refers to the place.

 

Not only Kachargarh, but Gondia, Bhandara, Chandrapur, Yavatmal and Nagpur also were Gond-majority areas. Villages settled by the Gonds were given names in Gondi language. They regarded regions, plants and trees, birds and animals, hills, mountains, rivers and streams as sacred and revered them as such. All these constituents of nature have had Gond names since ancient times. For instance, Gondinaar was the ancient name for Gondia. Kachargarh was known as Kaachkopa, Jammokudo was Jambokudo, Kupargarh was Kopargarh. Similarly, names of several villages were changed after 1950, when other peoples settled in the Gond villages. Changes are seen in the names of the villages, names of the Adivasis, language, traditions, history and culture, but the local people remember the names of villages, places, rivers, streams and hills given by the first inhabitants.

Hazara Falls are a major tourist attraction and a centre of Gond

If Devashish Roy does not have a historical source (name of the document, page number, author/publisher, year) to back his claim, he should be honest enough to admit that it is his conjecture or a product of his imagination. Nobody is permitted to distort Gondi culture and civilization.

Rock carvings representing Lingo and Jango, the revered ancestors in Gond culture, and the seven Gotras, in Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh (Photo: Sanjay Jothe)

Tararam Atram, an expert on Gond culture, says that the entire plan is to impose the alien Hindu religion and culture on Gondi religion and culture. He says, “It is an attempt to establish Hindu imperialism over the Gonds. It is like reciting Ramayana or Gita in a mosque. It is akin to an attack by an alien culture on our million-year-old culture and civilization.”

Translation: Parmanand Baiga; copy-editing: Anil

References:

(1) Kangali, M. (2011), Pari Kupar Lingo Gondi Punem Darshan (Hindi). Chandrlekha Kangali, 48 Ujjwal Society, Nagpur.

(2) Kangali, M., Gardarshan,

[1] High hills on the plateau of Satpura in Balaghat, Madhya Pradesh

[2] An ancient tribe

[3] Pari Kupar Lingo is regarded as the progenitor of the Gond culture. He is the common ancestor of the seven gotras.

[4] According to Gond literature and available documents, there is an important link between the Gond community and the Kachargarh caves. According to folklore, Madav Shambhushek Kodapa had imprisoned 12 children of Kalia Dai in the cave. Pari Kupar Lingo, Hirasuka Lingo and Jang Raitad Dai rescued them.

[5] Hazara waterfalls are close to the Darekasa tunnel. It is a popular tourist destination.


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